Almost immediately after funding arrived from Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Measure, Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services began putting those dollars directly into the community. In all, nearly two-dozen programs have launched since July 1, when funds first became available.
Shelters are under construction and serving people thanks to these funds.
Outreach teams and cleanup programs are hiring right now.
Behavioral health caseworkers are helping clients find housing.
And tenants are finding long-term homes with support services.
Many more programs are coming over the following weeks. The Joint Office has worked with urgency to adjust to changing conditions, speeding up some programs and, in some cases, adding more services than initially planned. Metro has required each County receiving funds to present a more detailed first-quarter progress report later this fall. In the meantime, Multnomah County and the Joint Office have prepared this preliminary update to share early highlights of the work so far.
But first, what is supportive housing, and how does it help end homelessness?
Supportive housing is a widely demonstrated approach to effectively end homelessness for individuals who have experienced prolonged and repeated homelessness. It recognizes that for some people, housing first doesn't mean housing only. It has been proven, both locally and nationally, as a way to reduce, even more than shelter or other non-housing services, things like avoidable emergency department visits, jail bookings and inpatient psychiatric stays.
Supportive housing, at its core, is deeply affordable, long-term housing. It can be provided quickly in market-rate apartments through a rent subsidy or over a longer period of time with newly built affordable housing units. Our community is actively adding both kinds of housing, thanks to the Supportive Housing Services Measure and two previous housing construction bonds.
Supportive housing units are then linked with services that include access and/or navigation to case management, mental healthcare, addiction and recovery treatment, employment services, rent assistance, and other care as needed. Some people move to supportive housing directly from the streets, while others can be placed there from shelters. The goal is to not just help someone regain housing, but to support them so they can remain and thrive in their new home.
- New alternative shelters: Contract is in place with Beacon PDX, which under construction in Northeast Portland and ready to scale. Another contract is being finalized with another provider. These sites are in addition to the city’s upcoming Safe Rest Villages and the C3PO outdoor shelters. They are part of a request for proposals from the community we issued in the spring.
- Another 200+ motel rooms beyond our initial plan: To add to the 130 motel shelter beds in our original budget, JOHS is evaluating the purchase of more motels. We are also talking to service providers about how to support operations at motels they own.
- Two more traditional shelters are getting support this fall:
- The 80-bed downtown Greyhound winter shelter will stay open instead of closing in September.
- A 60-bed winter shelter will open in November at our Lombard (Arbor Lodge) site in North Portland, so we can use the site while we also plan and build a long-term shelter set to open there next year.
- Quadrupling the number of Navigation Teams: Three new five-person navigation teams are hiring up, making a total of four. These teams support high-impact campsites with health, shelter and housing navigation.
- Doubling capacity for mental health street outreach: SHS funds will double the capacity of a current provider, Cascadia Behavioral Health, to offer clinical and peer mental health support, plus housing connections, to people without shelter.
- Adding more Addiction Recovery Navigators: This partnership between the Joint Office and the Behavioral Health Division will help more people access addiction treatment services.
- Establishing an East County cleanup program: Cultivate Initiatives has a contract to provide job training and cleanup services and is building its team.
- Expanding a trash pickup program citywide: A contract is under way to support an expansion of the work provided by Trash 4 Peace.
- Volunteer corps cleanup program relaunching: Central City Concern is relaunching a program that engages people leaving homelessness in a structured volunteer corps, part of a progression toward regaining employment.
- Getting apartment keys and support services to people on our streets and shelters: A newly launched local version of the federal Section 8 rent subsidy program is helping people, right now, move into market-rate apartments by helping pay their rent. Other clients are now moving into affordable buildings operated by nonprofit providers. Our goal is helping 1,300 households into housing this year.
- Housing now for Behavioral Health clients: Caseworkers in the Health Department’s Assertive Community Treatment program finally have rent money in hand that they can pair with the services they provide to their highest-needs clients, roughly 100 people.
- Preventing new waves of unsheltered homelessness: We are responding to the changing crisis in our community by getting rent assistance and legal-aid services to people who would otherwise face eviction and land on our streets.